Spatial Design Action Programme

The Netherlands faces big social challenges which require major changes to our living environment. What role can design play in this? The Spatial Design Action Programme 2021-2024 is an incentive programme aimed at strengthening the engagement of spatial design in tackling these challenges and stimulating an integral approach.

The spatial challenges that the Netherlands faces are big and complex. For example, the building of a million houses, adaptation to a changing climate and the switch to sustainable energy, the change to circular agriculture and the construction of new water storage, nature and recreation facilities.

A complicating factor is that space is scarce in our country. Changes will have to take place in our immediate living environment: in neighbourhoods, villages, cities and in the landscape. Engaging design and designers – such as architects, urban planners and landscape architects – is important for allowing these changes to succeed and could even lead to the quality of the living environment improving.

four big challenges
In the 2021-2024 period, the Creative Industries Fund NL will be an important implementing partner of the Spatial Design Action Programme, an initiative of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In those four years, the Fund will focus on stimulating regional and local initiatives and in doing so it will complement four big challenges from the National Strategy on Spatial Planning and the Environment (NOVI):

- space for climate adaptation and energy transition;
- sustainable economic growth potential;
- strong and healthy cities and regions;
- future-proof development of rural areas.

interdisciplinary coalitions
The Fund annually organizes two open calls each year, offering interdisciplinary coalitions the opportunity to look at how substantial spatial transition processes can be tackled and how the spatial quality of the Netherlands can be improved, based on an integral design approach. The projects that are supported within the open calls, have a time span of at least one year in the first phase, and up to two years in the follow-up phases. The themes and objectives of the various open calls are determined together with a programme council. Five open calls have now been issued: Beautiful Production Landscapes, Different Approach to Housing, Building out of the Soil, Ways to Well-being and Room for Justice.

programme council
The programme council consists of: David Hamers, deputy division head of Spatial Planning and the Quality of the Living Environment at PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Christine Carabain, programme leader of Scarcity, Welfare and Well-being of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, Shay Raviv, Curator Embassy of Inclusive Society Dutch Design Foundation, Jannemarie de Jonge, member of the Board of Government Advisors, Ingeborg Thoral, Mixst Urbanism, Theo Stauttemer, Stadkwadraat and Citymaker Fund, Marinke Steenhuis, Partner SteenhuisMeurs and Jeroen Niemans, adviser at Hiemstra & De Vries. View the other positions of programme council members here. (Dutch only)

research by design
Designers often apply research by design in these processes. This method or working method is aimed at developing new spatial visions and design proposals for the future. It answers the question of how you can achieve co-creation with stakeholders, such as civilians, entrepreneurs, experts, organizations and government bodies. In the strategic phase, this process helps to focus on the challenges, to clarify them, to consider and connect the interests concerned, to organize support and to initiate new collaborations, creating scope for integral future perspectives and possible problem-solving approaches, but also for new insights into policy-making by governments and market participants. There is no one type of research by design. This set of instruments can be used in various development phases and at various levels.

community of practice
In order to stimulate the exchange of knowledge, the Fund initiates cooperative ventures and organizes in-depth lectures, masterclasses and work meetings for sharing experiences and presenting results. We do this alone or in collaboration with network partners, such as NEPROM (The Netherlands Association of Property Developers and Investors), Aedes (Federation of Social Housing Institutions in the Netherlands), Board of Government Advisors, IABR (International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam) and local architecture centres.

platform de nieuwe ruimte

On the platform De nieuwe ruimte [The new space] we bundle the (interim) results of the Spatial Design Action Programme. The platform is a place for exchange of research by design, knowledge and experience for all project teams, partners and others interested in the spatial quality of the Netherlands.


Brabantse oogst ARO & VRO (in Dutch only)

The exhibition Brabantse oogst ARO & VRO [Brabant Harvest ARO & VRO] shows 31 Brabant projects from the Spatial Design Action Programme and the Spatial Design Voucher Scheme. The projects are an interesting source of practical knowledge and experience on the deployment of design power in the spatial challenges that are happening all over Brabant. Brabantse oogst ARO & VRO was on show in Eindhoven until 27 April 2023 and can also be seen later this year in the municipalities of Maashorst, Tilburg (in collaboration with CAST) and Breda (in collaboration with BLASt). Information will follow.

Image: Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken